Llyn Cwellyn

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Llyn Cwellyn
Llyn Cwellyn Panorama.JPG
from Mynydd Mawr
Location North Wales
Coordinates 53°4′20″N 4°9′6″W / 53.07222°N 4.15167°W / 53.07222; -4.15167Coordinates: 53°4′20″N 4°9′6″W / 53.07222°N 4.15167°W / 53.07222; -4.15167
Type reservoir, natural lake
Basin countries United Kingdom
Surface area 215 acres (87 ha)
Max. depth 120 ft (37 m)
Settlements Rhyd Ddu
A map of the lake from 1947
Llyn Cwellyn viewed from the Welsh Highland Railway

Llyn Cwellyn (Llyn Quellyn in some antiquated texts) is a reservoir in North Wales which supplies drinking water to parts of Gwynedd and Anglesey. It lies on the Afon Gwyrfai in Nant y Betws between Moel Eilio and Mynydd Mawr in the northern part of Snowdonia National Park. It has an area of 215 acres (0.87 km2), and is over 120 ft (37 m) deep. At the southern end is the small village of Rhyd Ddu.

Although it is now dammed at the northern end, below the Castell Cidwm ridge, near the village of Betws Garmon this has not substantially increased the size of the natural glacial moraine lake that has existed since the last ice age. The lake is very deep and is one of the few lakes in Wales to support a natural population of Arctic char. The lake also is home to brown trout and there are otters that are regularly seen at the Castell Cidwm end. The lake has shared ownership between Lawrence Jones (businessman) owner of the Castell Cidwm estate at the Northern end and Welsh water, who own the right hand side that supplies the weir. The lake was originally owned by the Marquis of Anglesey who used the Castell Cidwm country house as his hunting lodge.

The A4085 runs past the lake, however there are no lay-byes for picnics and the east side is now considered a Nature Reserve and fishing is not permitted in the tree lined area beside the road all the way down to Castell Cidwm. Fishing permits can be purchased however there are better lakes in the surrounding areas which are more sheltered and better stocked. This lake is particularly dangerous when out on a small boat as fast winds come down off Snowdon and through the valley making it impossible to row back up the lake. This lake is a reservoir and engines are not permitted. Even with an electric motor it is almost impossible to navigate up the lake into the wind once it picks up.

On the far side of the lake the land is owned by the Forestry Commission, however logging has been stopped to prevent the water in the lake being damaged. In 2009 work started 2 miles (3.2 km) down stream on a water treatment plant which is due to be finished in 2011.

Further up the mountainside is the Welsh Highland Railway, which offers splendid views of the lake from the south. Road and railway both run from Caernarfon to Beddgelert and then through the Aberglaslyn Pass to Porthmadog. The railway comes from Caernarfon and as it approaches the lake veers left from the Castell Cidwm rock face through a hand carved mini gorge and under a small bridge before heading up the east side of the lake towards Snowdon Ranger railway station and later Rhyd Ddu railway station at the start of the Rhyd Ddu path to the summit of Snowdon.

Rail and road run side by side for over half a mile to the summit of the mountain pass at Pitt's Head where the road passes over the railway before descending steeply through Nant Colwyn to Beddgelert. Pitt's Head is also the starting point of the 'Beddgelert' branch of the Rhyd Ddu path to Snowdon. Midway along the eastern shore of the lake is the starting point of the easier but less sensational Snowdon Ranger path to the summit of Snowdon. This route makes an excellent way down Snowdon as the view of the lake is magnificent whatever the weather.

Since the Middle Ages the overland route from Caernarfon to Beddgelert via Llyn Cwellyn and then via the River Glaslyn and the Traeth Mawr to Cardigan Bay was often the preferred alternative to the long voyage round the Llŷn Peninsula.


  • The Lakes of Eryri by Geraint Roberts. Gwasg Carreg Gwalch, Llanrwst, 1995.
  • Snowdonia, National Park Guide Number 2, edited Edmund Vale, HMSO 1958/1960 (page 74)

External links[edit]

Panorama of Llyn Cwellyn. Mynydd Mawr (Big Mountain) at left